- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 6, 2003

   The Transportation Security Administration plans to cut 103 screener jobs at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, which the Secret Service designated as a top security threat among airports after the September 11 attacks.
   Three screener jobs will be eliminated at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, and none will be cut at Washington Dulles International Airport.
   The reductions at Reagan Airport, which has 503 screeners, result partly from a budget crunch and partly from updates of the number of passengers.
   The unusually large reductions at Reagan Airport prompted Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, to express concern yesterday about lax security.
   “It seems strange that all the cuts are being made at National,” Mr. Moran said. “It just seems very inconsistent to me when National is the closest airport to the Pentagon and our nation’s Capitol.”
   Reagan Airport is within sight of many of Washington’s landmarks and is frequently used by members of Congress.
   The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) uses a formula to determine the number of screeners at each airport based on the number of passengers. Fewer passengers mean fewer screeners.
   Nationwide, TSA is eliminating 6,000 airport screener jobs by the end of September, a nearly 11 percent drop in the work force. TSA officials said the job cuts would save the agency about $280 million a year.
   Reagan Airport was closed for nearly a month after the terrorist attacks until new security procedures were implemented. The additional security included a federal work force of screeners to inspect passengers and baggage.
   The Secret Service initially recommended that the airport be closed indefinitely.
   “The job eliminations will not only hurt us economically by adding more unemployed workers to an already weak economy, but passengers are going to have to wait in longer lines because there are not as many screeners,” Mr. Moran said in a statement.
   He said he plans to demand an explanation from TSA about why so many screener jobs are being cut at Reagan Airport, which is in his home district.
   “We’ll see what TSA explains,” Mr. Moran said.
   Airport officials said they are not concerned about the job cuts at Reagan Airport.
   “Our understanding is that they looked at this carefully,” said Tara Hamilton, spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which oversees Reagan and Dulles airports. “We’ve had very good service at Reagan National and we would hope that would continue.”
   TSA had set the number of screeners at Reagan Airport based on the number of passengers before the September 11 attacks. Now, they are using more recent figures that show boardings are down about 19 percent.
   In 2000, 15.8 million passengers used the airport, compared with 12.8 million last year.
   “We’re going back to make sure we did it the right way, and in some cases we’re going to have to lay people off,” TSA spokeswoman Heather Rosenker said.
   She said TSA is experiencing a budget crunch, but she denied that the job cuts would create a hazard for travelers.
   “The number of screeners will not change the level of security,” Miss Rosenker said.
   The job reductions followed a routine update of TSA’s formula, she said.
   “It’s a realignment time,” she said.
   About half the job reductions locally and nationally will be done by eliminating vacant positions. Other workers will be offered jobs at airports that need them, such as in Orlando, Fla.; Bangor, Maine; Wichita, Kan.; and Aspen, Colo. Some screeners will be laid off.
   “TSA is entering a new stage in its maturation,” TSA Director James Loy said when he announced the job cuts last week.
   The job reductions also respond to criticisms in Congress, mainly among Republicans, that the 17-month-old agency became bloated as it grew quickly.
   Congress capped the number of full-time screeners at 45,000. TSA officials got around the cap by hiring an additional 9,000 part-time screeners, most of whom were given five-year contracts.
   BWI has 711 screeners, and Dulles has 654.

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